2018 PFIG Recipient Mariana Brazao

2018 PFIG Recipient Mariana Brazao

Journal Entry #1

Hi there! My name is Mariana Brazao, and I am a rising fourth-year double-majoring in Foreign Affairs and Latin American Studies, as well as minoring in Portuguese. This summer, I have the unique opportunity to intern abroad in my home country of Portugal at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon. My family and I moved to the United States from Lisbon when I was just nine months old. I grew up speaking Portuguese at home and even attended Portuguese-School every Saturday for nine-years to further develop my fluency in the language. Growing up, I had always dreamed of the opportunity to get some professional experience in Portugal and that is exactly what I’m getting this summer!

I am currently working as a Foreign Commercial Services (FCS) Intern under the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. That is quite a mouthful, and you’re probably wondering what exactly it is that I do so let me help clarify! The U.S. Department of Commerce is a huge agency and has a series of branches, one of them being the International Trade Administration (ITA). The International Trade Administration works heavily with U.S. industry as well as companies abroad to help with international trade and investment. ITA is then split up into three sub-sections including Global Markets, Industry & Analysis (I&A), and Enforcement and Compliance. The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service is positioned under Global Markets and acts as the trade promotion arm of Commerce in the United States and abroad. Since I’m working with FCS Lisbon, I work primarily with the Portugal-United States bilateral trade relationship. Last summer, I interned in D.C. at the U.S. Department of Commerce for the Brazil Desk under ITA. What I’ve most enjoyed so far about this summer is seeing the kind of work done at posts abroad to complete the same mission.

These past couple of weeks have flown by and I’m already learning a lot regarding the bilateral relationship between Portugal and the United States. One of my main projects that I’m currently working on is the 2018 Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies who want to do business in Portugal. This is a combined project with the U.S. Department of State where we compile an extensive all you need to know guide for U.S. companies trying to enter the Portuguese market. Since trade laws and regulations are constantly changing, there is a significant amount of updating to do. Furthermore, Portugal recently completed its European Union-IMF bailout program in 2014 and has experienced growth this past couple of years after emerging from its economic crisis. Tourism has become a booming industry here, bringing lots of opportunities for foreign companies.

The environment here at the Embassy is so much fun. It also doesn’t hurt that I’m here during the World Cup. Last week, the embassy got together for a Portugal vs. Morocco watch party as we all cheered on Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, we’re getting ready for our 4thof July celebrations. I can’t wait to see what these next several weeks have in store for me!

Journal Entry #2

I’m just about halfway through my internship and have so many updates. I left off talking about our preparations for the 4th of July party so let me tell you a little bit about that! We had a country-styled themed party, per the Ambassador’s request. We all went dressed in cowboy-themed clothes, and the Embassy’s patio was transformed into the Wild West! There was a mechanical bull, horseshoe games, KFC, Pizza Hut, and plenty more. We even had live country music since they hired what is probably the only Portuguese-based country band. Overall, it was a ton of fun to see my co-workers and members of the community come together to celebrate this holiday in such a fun way. It was truly a night to remember!

I have continued to learn so much during my time at this internship. One of the most beneficial aspects of interning abroad at an Embassy has been getting the chance to talk to current Foreign Service Officers about their experiences abroad. I have considered entering the Foreign Service upon graduating, and it has been an invaluable experience to get a chance to understand just what that lifestyle looks like and to hear first-hand accounts of this experience from several individuals. People here at the Embassy are always extremely eager to share their experiences, and they have given me such great advice regarding my own future professional path.

I’ve also started to understand more of how an Embassy works organizationally. Since Portugal is such a small country, there is only the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon (joined by a Consulate Office) on mainland Portugal. The only other U.S. Consulate Office that exists for Portugal is in Ponta Delgada, located on São Miguel Island, part of the autonomous region of the Azores. The U.S. Embassy in Lisbon contains entities from a series of departments, ranging from the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State. The Department of State is the most represented department here with a series of different offices ranging from the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) to the Political/Economic section. The Consulate Office handles all the visa paperwork and appointments.  

Regarding my specific day-to-day tasks, we’ve officially finished up the 2018 Country Commercial Guide for Portugal and sent it for approval. We ended up with a 100-page document outlining everything that you would need to know to enter the Portuguese market, from current EU regulations to the country’s leading sectors. One thing that I learned was just how much Portugal is investing in its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Lisbon currently holds a three-year mandate to host the annual Web Summit, the world’s biggest technology conference. Last year, names such as Microsoft’s president Brad Smith and Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman (also a UVA grad) spoke at the event. Its goal is to bring together global technology companies for dialogue and investment. It’ll be neat to see what this year’s summit brings! Currently, I am working to transform some of the information from the 2018 Country Commercial Guide into an infographic video to distribute on the Embassy’s YouTube Channel. I’m hoping to combine some of my marketing and public relations skills with my internship duties. The current focus of the Embassy’s mandate is to work on U.S.-Portuguese bilateral investment, so I’m hoping to further this conversation through some of these videos.

I’m trying to maximize the time that I have left here at the Embassy and in Portugal as it has been flying by way too fast! I’ll be updating you in a few weeks on how these video projects and other ongoing projects worked out.

Journal Entry #3

I have just finished up my time interning here at FCS Portugal, and it has truly been a remarkable experience. These past couple of weeks have been busy as we’ve officially transitioned Commercial Counselors to oversee our work here. All of our staff here are local hires, which means they are Portuguese locals, and the Commercial Counselor is the U.S. diplomat appointed to these Commercial Services posts abroad. This means I spend every day speaking and working in Portuguese which is exactly what I wanted going into this internship. It has been great getting to further develop my fluency in a professional work environment.

A lot of my work recently has been conducting market research regarding Portugal’s tourism industry. I’ve led some reports outlining the booming hospitality and hotel industry, highlighting the main openings this year. Lisbon and Porto have become two main destination spots and companies all over the world have been responding in an outpour of foreign direct investment for these projects. Another neat initiative that I have been learning about is specific to the film industry. Portugal’s main film regulatory agency has just announced a fund aimed to help support film production in the country by offering discounted rates for companies. Even just walking on the streets in some of Lisbon’s main spots you can hear the variety of languages being spoken, marking that huge tourism presence. I am incredibly lucky to have spent my time here interning during a period where the country’s market is booming with opportunities to help support this new influx of visitors.

Overall, this summer has been such a valuable experience. My favorite part has definitely been getting to know the team here at FCS Portugal. I’ve learned so much from their years of experience working at the embassy. Since I interned last summer at the Department of Commerce with the Brazil Desk, I have spent a lot of time comparing and contrasting my two different experiences to come to broader conclusions about bilateral trade initiatives with the U.S. and countries abroad. This experience has provided me with some great knowledge that I intend to use this year as I officially head into the post-grad job search.

Thanks for following my journey, and if you’re interested in checking out opportunities with FCS, I recommend you check out the website below. There are several opportunities to intern with ITA both in D.C. and at the hundreds of posts abroad (just take your pick!):